Friday, September 4, 2009
Photographing Miniatures: The Kinda Easy FoxPhoenix Way
Lately I have seen a lot of posts on forums and such of new players trying to get some feedback on their freshly-painted miniatures, but the pictures are just so fuzzy that nobody can see their work to help them. Miniature photography is difficult, and most people don't know the basics to this different style of photographing (I know I sure didn't). I want to help remedy that.
You don't need a bunch of fancy equipment... quite the opposite actually. As long as you have a decent digital camera, the rest is relatively easy to procure. Let's jump right into the basics:
WHAT YOU NEED
The camera you use should have at least a couple key functions for photographing miniatures: A "Macro" function (paramount to this type of photography), a "White Balance" setting of some fashion (some label this as simply WB or AWB), and an adjustable exposure setting. The rest of the functions such as shutter speed and stuff are really outside of my knowledge, and the scope of this guide. Stick to the basics at first. A tripod is useful, but not essential.
You may have heard that daylight is the best light source... but I say that isn't always the case. I prefer to use a simple approach to lighting... the two lamp method (as pictured above). Take two normal desk lamps with incandescent bulbs, and position one immediately above the subject, and the other about 45 degrees pointing down on the subject. If your camera is on a tripod, you may need to adjust the height of the frontal light source, but you'll figure that out.
I use a simple home-made backdrop made from the bottom of a box of diapers and a piece of paper taped into it. This works for around 80% of the photographing I do of my miniatures... the rest are either too large or the white paper washes out some of the color. Experimenting a little with the background can yield satisfying results in your photography. Try switching out the white for a black if you have a very-brightly colored miniature. A light gray might be a decent compromise for most projects, but I haven't tried it myself.
OK, now that we have all the basics, we can go about taking the darn picture. Set your subject(s) up on your backdrop. I like to position them closer to the back if I am doing a group shot, as they will fit against your backdrop better. Position the lighting as described or photographed above.
The higher the resolution of the camera, the better. If you want to save space on your SD card, I'll write another article on enhancing the pictures you take later, such as cropping and changing the size, but you will need to have a higher resolution in order to make this work. Most cameras need to be at least 6-12 inches away from their subject, even in macro mode. This is called the "Focal point", and it determines whether or not the subject will be in-focus. If you put the camera too close, the camera can't adjust its focus to see it. Since most cameras use automatic-digital focusing, this can cause a big problem.
So, enable your macro setting. It usually looks like a small flower or something, and it enables your camera to focus in on objects that are close. The next setting you want to adjust is your white balance, sometimes referred to as WB, or AWB. You should be using two lamps of the same kind of bulb, otherwise you might notice the colors don't seem right in your pictures. If you are using "regular" filament bulbs, then incandescent is the setting you are looking for. If you have a fancier desk that utilizes fluorescent bulbs, there should be a setting for that too. Set it accordingly.
Finally, adjust the exposure setting. On many cameras, this is done in increments of thirds in the positive or the negative. For example, setting my exposure to -1/3 makes the picture slightly darker. You are going to want to set your exposure up at least by +1/3, or even possibly 2/3 or 1. This will lighten the photo and should pick out more of the details then it normally would. Play around with it a little and find out.
Take the picture! If you have ever fired a rifle before, you may remember some tips. tips such as control your breathing, squeeze and don't jerk, etc. You need to be as still as possible to keep the camera in-focus. This is where the tripod comes in handy. If your camera has it, setting the timer with a tripod can ensure you get the least amount of movement.
Voila! You should have passable pictures from the get-go. Next time, I'll go over how to clean up these images digitally by using free/readily available software that most computers come standard with.
Until next time,
Adeptus Astartes, Blood Angels, Bloodquest, Cadian, Catachan, the Chaos devices, Cityfight, the Chaos logo, Citadel, Citadel Device, Codex, Daemonhunters, Dark Angels, Dark Eldar, 'Eavy Metal, Eldar, Eldar symbol devices, Eye of Terror, Fire Warrior, Forge World, Games Workshop, Games Workshop logo, Genestealer, Golden Demon,Adeptus Astartes, Blood Angels, Bloodquest, Cadian, Catachan, the Chaos devices, Cityfight, the Chaos logo, Citadel, Citadel Device, Codex, Daemonhunters, Dark Angels, Dark Eldar, 'Eavy Metal, Eldar, Eldar symbol devices, Eye of Terror, Fire Warrior, Forge World, Games Workshop, Games Workshop logo, Genestealer, Golden Demon, Gorkamorka, Great Unclean One, Inquisitor, the Inquisitor logo, the Inquisitor device, Inquisitor:Conspiracies, Keeper of Secrets, Khorne, Kroot, Lord of Change, Necron, Nurgle, Ork, Ork skull devices, Sisters of Battle, Slaanesh, Space Hulk, Space Marine, Space Marine chapters, Space Marine chapter logos, Tau, the Tau caste designations, Tyranid, Tyrannid, Tzeentch, Ultramarines, Warhammer, Warhammer 40k Device, White Dwarf, the White Dwarf logo, and all associated marks, names, races, race insignia, characters, vehicles, locations, units, illustrations and images from the Warhammer 40,000 universe are either ®, TM and/or © Copyright Games Workshop Ltd 2000-2016, variably registered in the UK and other countries around the world. Used without permission. No challenge to their status intended. All Rights Reserved to their respective owners.
Games Workshop, the Games Workshop logo, Epic, Inquisitor, the Inquisitor logo, Inquisitor:Conspiracies, Battlefleet Gothic, the Battlefleet Gothic logo, Necromunda, the Necromunda Plate logo, the Necromuinda Stencil logo, Mordheim, the Mordheim logo, City of the Damned, Blood Bowl, the Blood Bowl logo, the Blood Bowl Spike device, Fanatic, the Fanatic logo, the Fanatic II logo, Warmaster and all associated marks, names, races, race insignia, characters, vehicles, locations, units, illustrations and images from the Blood Bowl game, Warhammer 40,000 universe and the Warhammer World are either ®, TM and/or © Copyright Games Workshop Ltd 2000-2016, variably registered in the UK and other countries around the world. Used without permission. No challenge to their status intended. All Rights Reserved to their respective owners.
Flames of war are either (R), TM and/or (C) Battlefront Miniatures.
Unless mentioned otherwise, the contents of this site are (C) Matt Darnell, 2008-2017